It's a Fact! [citation needed]
There is an old "statistic" that proud arts-loving Minnesotans like to repeat a lot: Minneapolis has more theater seats per capita than any city other than New York. I went out in search for the source of this factoid, but wound up at dead ends wherever I went. The Wikipedia page for Arts in Minneapolis lists this fact, but with no citation to back it up. Newspaper articles like to cite the Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association; however, the Association's official website, instead of citing a study or even offering a vague head count, just repeats "More theater seats per capita than any U.S. city outside New York" without further explanation.

Graydon Royce did some quick calculations back in 2001 that the Twin Cities sold 0.82 theater tickets per capita in the 1999-2000 season. So far, this is the only actual math-related attempt to quantify the statement that I have been able to find. Aside from those numbers now being 15 years old, they don't quite get at the actual statement: "theater seats per capita". What is defined as a theater seat? Are they only for permanent theaters? Does an outdoor performance count? And who's counting all these seats anyway?

The reason I bring this old saw up is that despite our arts pride and our boasting, there is a scramble for performance space in the Twin Cities, one that probably won't be tackled by traditional means any time soon.

At Last, Bedlam
Ever since the closure of Bedlam Theatre's space in the Cedar-Riverside area, the theatre world has been waiting for the group to rise up again. In truth, Bedlam didn't "go away" between then and now; the group has been operating out of multiple spaces and continuing its community-based work. However, it has been almost two years since it was announced that Bedlam would move into a new home in Lowertown St. Paul, and the theater community (flush with nostalgia of drinking under the stars on the old space's rooftop during the Fringe Festival) has been anxiously awaiting the new doors to open.

Bedlam will finally be putting on an actual production in the new space this month, with soft openings for the restaurant and bar set for April.

The saga of Bedlam's new space (the wooing by St. Paul, the endless fundraising, the shifting plans, the increasing budgets, the building problems) is a prime example of how difficult it can be to put together a space. Bedlam has plenty of experience with taking over new spaces, and its punk history has inspired plenty of people to try doing anything anywhere, but the realities of living in space (and following all relevant health, safety and fire codes) calls for a lot of work and compromise.

Get Out of the House
The theater community is also waiting for Gremlin Theatre to find that new home they've been looking for. The company pulled up stakes on their University Avenue site recently and is currently searching for what will be their third theatre space in their existence. In the mean time, Gremlin has been rediscovering the problems with being an itinerant theater company, and, as an added bonus, the joys of dealing with regulations.

After shedding their space, the company staged its current play in a house on Portland Avenue in St. Paul. However, the production shut down before it opened, after Gremlin was made aware of problems with the "occupancy and legal status" of the house. Thankfully for Gremlin, the folks at Open Eye Figure Theatre in Minneapolis were able to put them up for a little while before the production wings off for an east coast festival.

Parking the Garage
In the Wedge area of Minneapolis, the struggle to get new development for the Theatre Garage continues. As I mentioned previously, local residents turned out to oppose the new development, a stance that is becoming something of a trend with Minneapolitans. The hubbub over the Franklin development, along with other outcries over development in Dinkytown, led the Star Tribune's editorial board to question whether Minneapolis is actually serious about growth.

How Will You Make It On Your Own?
Making a space for theater is difficult, even for large companies. Park Square in St. Paul had to work for a long time and invest a lot of money to break ground on its new space, even in a city that is actively pushing arts development. (Even then, the theater had to fend off the erroneous idea that they were squeezing out other folks,.)

We can argue about whether or not there is enough space in the Twin Cities, but while we're discussing some people are innovating. Whether it be by performances in garages, puppet shows in driveways, dance shows in living rooms or mixed-use art galleries, there are people out there trying to find ways around the space issue.

I guess that's why the dubious "number of seats per capita" fact bothers me. Just as official statistics like the unemployment rate conveniently leave out huge swaths of the population, so, too, does this one fail to take into account the full breadth and depth of theatre and its possibilities.

Be Careful With Your "Revitalization"
Just as the "death of theatre" has been foretold for generations, so, too, has the call to arms to revitalize it. However, the blind quest to update, adapt or otherwise breathe life into theater's past can have its pitfalls. I provide the following for you now as a cautionary tale:

Things aren't going well for Lantern Theater Company in Philadelphia. They recently opened a version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, but the reviews haven't been so hot. (Actually, they've been downright terrible.)

And now, to top it all off, the show is being called out as racist. Why? Well, if you haven't clicked on the links above yet, let me put it this way: Lantern decided to restage Julius Caesar in feudal Japan, but without looking for any Japanese performers, or, at the very least, consulting with anyone who knew anything about Japan.

And the company's response to being called out for a confusing, pointless and probably offensive mishmash? "I welcome the opportunity to further discuss diversity and cultural representation in the theater."

So, there's your lesson today of What Not To Do.

A Gay Old Time
Before we go, one last thing that has nothing to do with anything we've talked about so far…

For all of you gay couples in Minnesota working on getting hitched, you should know that the bar is being raised already. These guys will have a wedding that is also a televised musical.

I don't know how you top that, but I want you to try.